Working as a dive instructor
Grand Cayman Travel Blog› entry 6 of 12 › view all entries
I fly up to Canada for a week, come back and get all my paperwork arranged, and start life in Grand Cayman.
The cost of living in ridiculously high, and though instructor pay is better here than most parts of the world, it would be very easy spending it all just on getting by. I end up living on the couch for a couple months, just chipping in for the bills and stuff, until a room comes up in one of the apartments in the same complex. It's a 3 bedroom, which I share with two guys: one is a waverunner mechanic, the other a hairdresser (no, not gay). The apartment, Windjammer Lodges, is in South Sound. To get to work, I either hitch or rollerblade (not very good roads for it, though) up to the Hyatt, along seven mile beach. Our dive boat is docked there, at an entrance to the North Sound, and all our staff takes it over to work in the morning. There's also a ferry that runs back and forth, that's how some of our customers come over, though we do have some staying up in the Rumpoint area.
The job is fun most days. For staff, there's Jason, another Canadian dive instructor, Dermot (South African, second in command), a redneck named Mike, who's also an instructor, Essie, a Kiwi that works on the beach (renting water toys like waverunners, Sunkats, etc), Gareth, an English guy that starts when I do, who also works the beach, another guy- can't remember his name, but he bugged me because he was so racist (why would you choose to live on a black island if you don't like blacks?), and a couple Caymanians: Jimmy, an old guy who drove the glassbottom boat to stingray city, and Andy, who normally crewed for Jimmy. Graham was the operations manager. The dive staff would take turns going out in pairs on the dive boat: one of us would dive, and one would drive, so I learnt how to drive a boat. If we weren't on the dive boat, we'd be in the dive shop, renting out snorkelling gear and beach toys, or helping out on the glassbottom boat, which took people snorkelling at Stingray City. Occasionally, we'd take a turn at working on the beach, when it was the day off of one of the beach staff. If one of the other Red Sail locations was understaffed, one of us would get sent over to help out, which was kind of a nice change of pace.
We had our share of dumb questions, particularly from cruiseshippers (sorry, cruise ship fans!). The island is a U-shape, and we were at one tip of it. They'd point to where they came from, and ask if it was Cuba. Or ask if there was good shopping at Stingray City (it's a sandbar in the water in the middle of the North Sound, where a bunch of stingrays congregate).
The days went by pretty quickly. Most days, after work, we'd stop at The Lone Star bar and grill, the bar would be filled with redshirts (our company uniform), from our other locations at the Hyatt and Westin. Dive staff seemed to only get to know divestaff- never anyone else from any other walk of life. Other than the couple guys that I worked with, and a Caymanian friend from university that was down over Christmas, I never got to know anyone from the island. I found that kind of sad: one of the things I like most about travelling and working other places is integrating into the community and meeting locals. The other thing I didn't like was how developed it was: lots of huge hotels, fast food chains- you could have been somewhere in the states.
When storms would blow in, the North Sound would get pretty choppy, so a lot of days we wouldn't be able to work. No one had a phone (there was a pretty hefty deposit to get one, so no one bothered), so we'd normally all show up at the boat, radio over to Rum Point, and be told to go home. That was a little painful financially!
We had one day off a week. Not much, usually just catching up on laundry and groceries, and lazying around. We had free use of the beach equipment, but who wants to go to work on their day off? Gareth and I did a couple beach days near the start: I always wanted to get parasailing, but never managed to do it. I did go out on our catamaran a few times for sunset sails, with friends of mine. And explored the island a bit: a few times, we'd do a tour around the island, if someone had rented a car or borrowed one.
The months passed pretty quickly. I was on a 6 month visa, and I had the option to renew. I was enjoying myself in Cayman, but I wanted more. I definitely didn't like it as much as Australia! I decided I wouldn't renew, I'd take a few months to travel. My work agreed to hire me back on in the fall if I wanted, so I left most of my belongings with a friend, and headed out with my backpack, a ticket on England, and a Eurorail pass.